World community, Muslim organizations welcome strict Saudi limit on Hajj pilgrims

World community, Muslim organizations welcome strict Saudi limit on Hajj pilgrims

JEDDAH (RAHNUMA):  The international community and Muslim organizations have welcomed Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow only a “very limited” number of pilgrims to perform Hajj this year due to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Officials have said that the number of worshippers taking part in the annual pilgrimage would be around 1,000 and restricted to only Saudis and foreign nationals already residing in the Kingdom.

“The COVID-19 pandemic presents enormous challenges for the entire world,” Australian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Ridwan Jadwat, told Arab News.

“I wish his excellency minister (Dr. Mohammed Saleh bin Taher) Bentin and his team at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah all the very best in their ongoing efforts to identify the proper health and safety measures to look after the limited number of pilgrims that will be permitted to perform the Hajj in 2020.”

The envoy also posted a special video message on his Twitter account to update Australians who intended to perform Hajj this year about the Kingdom’s decision not to receive international pilgrims.

“I hope in the future that we would be able to overcome this global pandemic and my family and I would be able to wish you a Hajj Mabrour in person, but in the meantime stay safe and stay well,” Jadwat said.

Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Raja Ali Ejaz, told Arab News that the Kingdom had taken “judicious time in reaching the decision, carefully weighing the pros and cons of various options.

“The Saudi leadership has always been cognizant of the safety, security, and spiritual fervor of the Hajj and Umrah pilgrims. I think the same factors have guided their decision this time as well.”

Ejaz said it was a wise move that balanced the religious aspirations of Muslims with the concerns regarding public health during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

British consul general in Jeddah, Seif Usher, said that the UK was grateful for the Kingdom’s support to British pilgrims performing Umrah and Hajj every year. “(The UK) appreciates that in these exceptional times, the Kingdom has understandably prioritized the health and safety of pilgrims.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), said:

“The emergency circumstance caused by the COVID-19 pandemic represents an exceptional case that Shariah law should take with great care and consideration, in order to preserve the safety of pilgrims.”

He pointed out that the value of human life was infinite in Islam and must be preserved. “Islamic Shariah considered the sanity of life a primary objective of Islamic law and one of the five necessities (preserving religion, life, intellect, procreation/lineage, and property/wealth).”

The Arab League’s assistant secretary-general and head of social affairs, Haifa Abu Ghazaleh, also praised the Kingdom’s decision over Hajj based on protecting the health and safety of pilgrims.

Under general guidelines announced during a press conference on Tuesday, it was announced that the Hajj pilgrimage would be limited to Saudis and expats under 65 years old who must undertake mandatory COVID-19 testing and isolation before and after their journey.

Bentin said that the plan for this year’s pilgrimage had been outlined with the Ministry of Health based on COVID-19 precautionary measures and that the number of pilgrims allowed to perform Hajj could be limited to less or more than 1,000.

Prof. Akhtarul Wasey, a scholar of Islamic studies based in New Delhi, said: “The decision (to limit Hajj numbers) was taken in the best interests of the global community in general and the Muslim world in particular because of the raging coronavirus pandemic.”

And he noted that this was not the first time in history that the pilgrimage had been curtailed. “There were instances in the last 1,400 years when the annual pilgrimage was cancelled or limited for one reason or another.

“Most notably during the reign of caliph Omar there was some kind of a pandemic or plague and the Hajj had to be cancelled,” he said.

Wasey called on Muslims to support the Saudi leadership “for having given top priority to the safety and health of pilgrims.”v

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